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WPC 101: Student Success in Business: Research a Topic

ASU 101 for the WP Carey School of Business

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The information on this page is divided into the following areas:

Formulating the Question

In business & economics we have multiple kinds of questions we research.

-  A business issue concerning a company, product or industry
Search the company name, brand, or industry and add keywords for the topic.

Financial data for a company or industry
Search financial resources listed at Company Financials/Investment Data and Industry Ratios and Averages.

Topical question framed as scholarly research or experiment
Research questions, like thesis statements, are usually stated in a specific format. The basic format is to identify the problem, name the proposed intervention or improvement, what is currently done (if anything), and what the expected results will be. This formula for stating your research question is called PICO.

What is PICO?

P = Population, Problem, Process

The population doesn't need to be human. In business, it can be a category or a thing like an industry or a product.

I = Intervention, Inquiry, Investigation, Improvement

Possible solution

C = Comparison

Current practice or opposing viewpoints

O = Outcomes

Measuring what worked best

PICO Question Example

As consumers, we know that oil prices are volatile and affect almost everything we buy. This is the Problem.

Regulations are used to create some measure of stability. This is the current practice or Comparison.

Speculators try to minimize risk and optimize profits by betting on the direction of future prices with options and futures. This is the Intervention.

To research the effect of these interventions on the market, we can formulate this question using the PICO elements:

In rising oil prices (P), how do speculators (I) compared to regulation (C) influence oil prices (O)?


Searching your Topic

We have many databases for business research. We list the databases and the types of research they contain on the

Library Guide: Business & Economic Databases

For most research questions we start by looking for journal articles. Our most used business journal articles database is


If you are new to searching, using the ADVANCED SEARCH option in ABI/Inform is easier because this automatically does some of the BOOLEAN connectors (logic) for you with the multiple rows of entry boxes for your keywords. It also sets up the AND and OR logic terms correctly by grouping together the related terms connected with OR (referred to as Nesting).  You might also find it helpful to use a symbol like * to search all the variants of a word stem.  This is known as Truncation. The symbol used depends on the database and will be noted in its Help documentation. All these strategies are used in the searches below.

To research the question:   

In rising oil prices, how does speculation compared to regulation influence oil prices?

First, let's see if there are any articles with all three concepts in them or any that compare them:

"oil prices" AND speculat* AND regulati*

"oil prices" AND speculat* AND regulati* AND compar*

If there were no such articles, we can use this search strategy to find more articles by asking for EITHER speculation or regulation:

"oil prices" AND (speculat* OR regulati*)

But if that was too big a list, we could narrow it by requiring the key words to be in the TITLE (ti) or SUBJECT (su) parts of the citation by selecting those fields in the drop-down menu to the right of the corresponding entry box in the ADVANCED SEARCH:

ti "oil prices" AND ti (speculat* OR regulat*

su "oil prices" AND su (speculat* OR regulat*

It is also a good idea to look at the column on the left-hand side.  Here we can limit the TYPE of articles we want to see by clicking on the desired type or by using "More options" to select multiple types or to exclude types:

Source types found in results 

In this column we can also limit the dates of publication of the articles by sliding the beginning and ending points on the bar graph to the desired years and clicking the Update button:

Date slider to reduce date range in results

What we pick depends on the assignment!

Your Librarian

Jenny Mueller-Alexander's picture
Jenny Mueller-Alexander
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